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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                     61
"Who are you?"
"What do you want to know for? Nicht fershteh...."
"I am Russian."
"You are fibbing. Bust my eyes if you ain't. You are a
fascist!"
"I am Russian, Russian! An airman. The Germans shot
me down."
Alexei cast all caution to the winds now. He was con-
vinced that his own people were behind those trees,
Russian, Soviet people. They did not believe him.
Thas was natural. War teaches one to be cautious.
And now, for the first time since he started out on his
journey, he felt absolutely done in, he felt that he could
not move either hand or foot, neither move nor de-
fend himself. Tears rolled down the dark hollows of his
cheeks.
"Look, he's crying!" came a voice from behind the
trees. "Hey, you! Why are you crying?1'
"I am a Russian, a Russian like you, an airman."
"From what airfield?"
"But who are you?"
"What do you want to know for? Answer!"
"From the Mochalov airfield. Why don't you help me?
Come out! What the hell...."
There was another, more animated, whispered con-
sultation behind the trees. Alexei distinctly heard the
words:
"Do you hear?  He says   he's   from   the   Mochalov
airfield----Perhaps he's telling the truth....   And  he's
crying...." Then came a shout: "Hey, you, airman!
Chuck your gun! Drop it, I tell you, or we won't come
out! We'll run away!"
Alexei threw his pistol away. The branches parted,
and two boys, alert, like a couple of inquisitive tomtits
ready to dart off in an instant, cautiously, hand in hand,
approached Alexei. The older one, a thin, blue-eyed lad
with flaxen hair, held an axe. The younger one, a red-
haired, freckle-faced little fellow, his eyes shining with
irrepressible curiosity, followed a step behind the first and
whispered:
"He's crying. He is really crying. And skinny! Look
how skinny he is!"